Groningen mimics the United Nations: ‘a great prep for politics’

More than one hundred Groningen students experienced the drama of international politics last Thursday at the 17th edition of the city´s very own Model United Nations: GrunnMUN.
By Edward Szekeres / Photos by Felipe Silva

GrunnMUN 2019 was a real-time simulation of a day at the UN. Students tried to agree on answers to today’s political problems, from climate change to national security.

The event was organised by the TEIMUN foundation. ‘When I walk through our office, I see posters from past MUNs dating back to 1995 with all these different themes and topics that are still relevant today, that talk about problems we still face. So maybe there are deficiencies endemic to the whole system. We need to change that,’ says chairman Floris Westenberg.

A surreal sermon

The event was attended by students of twenty-four different nationalities. The day kicked off early in the Doopsgezinde Kerk, which blanketed by a thick mist. Inside, experts gave speeches calling students to political action. Their admonishments echoed through the stone corridors like a surreal sermon. ‘We need you, our future leaders,’ said Nienke Homan, from the Green Left party.

In the crowd, South African medical student Alexandra Androni, is ready to be useful: ‘I always wanted to work at the UN with human rights. And medicine gives me a unique perspective,’ she says.

After the speeches, students are off the Heerenhuis.

There, History student Dian Hulsebosch seems nervous. She sips her coffee and listens to her friends wade into a heated argument about vegetarianism. ‘They are the ones who asked me to join GrunnMUN. It was just too awkward to say no.’ She’s never attended an event like this before.

Communists and proto-fascists

Most of the delegates are first-timers, says Floris. ‘It’s a good way to get a small sense of the stakes involved in politics. It´s always easier to say that politics don´t work from the outside.’

TEIMUN is the oldest-running rendition of Model United Nations in continental Europe. The focus has always been on getting experience and having fun. ‘People here are very open minded and internationally oriented,’ says Floris. ‘They think about the world and want to change it. They are connected by a sense of duty to leave the world a better place, which why you can find communists and proto-fascists sitting at the same table.’

Student delegates represented individual countries in five different councils. They discussed – and quarrelled over – a vast range of topics from climate change to euthanasia to space war. ‘It´s not some kind of imaginary Star Wars, though,’ says German student Cindy Kosseda, who studies international relations and organisations. ‘We are talking about the real potential of waging nuclear wars out space,’ Cindy Kosseda.

It happens all the time

In the end, only three councils managed to pass resolutions. ‘Hungary is very disappointed with how these talks proceeded,’ a delegate reported. But more experienced delegates say there’s no shame in failing to draft a resolution. It happens all the time at the UN.

History student Jan Willem Leeuwma represented Spain in the European Council that did not come to an agreement. He says it was hard to speak up sometimes, because the law students dominated most discussions. ‘But that’s great preparation for politics. I will probably do it again.’

He will get his chance this summer. The European International Model United Nations will be held in The Hague on July 15-20. You can sign up for the event here.



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